Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Chill in the Air

The squirrel carefully pulled on her figure skates, tied a scarf around her neck, then set out onto the frozen Potomac to practice her triple lutz. She hummed some Tchaikovsky music as she warmed up, then hummed only in her head as she had to start breathing more heavily. She did the single lutz without a problem. She skated some figures, then performed a double lutz without a problem. She skated another minute, set herself up, visualized her torso straight in the air through the entire set of revolutions, took off with her tail perfectly tucked between her legs, ONE, TWO, THREE--she was safely down! Then the ice cracked, she screamed, and fell in.

Perry Winkle sat up from his afternoon nap, gasping for air. The sun had long since disappeared behind the clouds, and his A/C unit felt frigid as it blasted him with conditioned air. He stood up to turn it off, then sat down on the edge of his bed. He had been having whacked dreams about the Potomac every night since he had tape-recorded Dubious McGinty's autobiographical yarn. Tomorrow morning he was supposed to be turning in a feature story on McGinty, but he was going to have to leave the most important part of it out--tilting at windmills, "Ardua of the Potomac". He would simply tell the Washington Post editor that they needed to discuss further how to keep Dubious anonymous or he would surely be evicted from his squat in the abandoned bridgeman's quarters of the bridge. And what about that Indian chick who wouldn't return his phone calls? What was that story? And why was the Coast Guard dude so mum about it? He shuffled into the kitchen to find some caffeine before returning to his laptop. What was he going to write?

A few miles away at Southwest Plaza, Marcos Vasquez was putting Golden Fawn's furniture back where it belonged and helping her clean up the mess left behind when the unauthorized workmen had installed her new but non-functional HVAC unit on Thursday. Judging by the looks of the place, he figured she had managed to move the furniture about an inch/day since Thursday before finally giving up and reluctantly calling him for help. She offered him iced tea, and they went and sat on the balcony to seek a breeze. He had gone through the same thing the month before--the old HVAC disconnected weeks before the new one was up and running. She looked weak--really, really weak--but she told him she was getting better. Her head bandana glistened with sweat, and her eyes were hollow. He know all about the breast cancer and her medical leave of absence from the National Museum of the American Indian. What he didn't know was why she kept dragging her exhausted body out to the Potomac to chant. They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to distant thunder and watching clouds form over Washington. Then he asked her. Then she began telling him about the legend of Ardua of the Potomac. Golden Fawn absent-mindedly swatted a fly away from her face, and it fell to the balcony floor, dead. A raven came out of nowhere, swooped down to eat the fly, then perched on the balcony railing, its ear cocked towards Golden Fawn. She interrupted herself to look at it, it squawked at her, she whispered to it, and it was quiet. She continued the story as the pigeon doves huddled in the corner, watching the distant lightning.

Several miles north, the ravens at Observatory Circle were making a ruckus. Inside, the Cheney's and the Shackled were all taking stock: on the one hand, another insulting editorial in The Washington Post; on the other hand, the accomplishments of the previous Saturday's Presidency and a brand new pacemaker. The Vice President sat in an easy chair, wrapped in an electric blanket, his face turned towards the air conditioning vent. Lately, he always felt cold, but his head was always hot, and he needed to breathe cold air. His wife had been droning on about something for at least half an hour, but his ears didn't pick up until he heard something about the Heurich Society. "They've decided it's time to start holding meetings again," she said. "I can't even remember now--did you go to those meetings because you liked those people or hated those people? You would think they would understand that you don't have time for secret societies anymore!" Cheney gritted his teeth, furious that she had kept this from him. He took a deep breath, waiting for his heart to catch up to his brain.

Several miles west, Charles Wu had been wandering around Dupont Circle, bored with his lackluster espionage life in Washington, when he had suddenly seen a bevy of beauties from France entering the Brewmaster's Castle for the afternoon tour. Henry Samuelson's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw Wu enter the Heurich mansion while looking out the top-floor window to see when the final members would arrive for the meeting. "That's the guy I told you about!" he whispered to a wool-suited octogenarian fanning himself in front of the air conditioning vent. The octogenarian--a former Diretor of the National Security Agency-- had already forgotten where he was and why he was here, but nodded politely. Samuelson threw his hands up, then ran out of the meeting room to investigate for himself. Condoleezza Rice--the youngest person in attendance and the only woman in the room--looked up and rolled her eyes. Once a spook, always a spook.

A few miles to the west, Lynnette Wong was tossing jade and sapphire amulets into the Potomac to draw in cool air from the West Wind. "I'm not afraid of you!" she muttered to Ardua, the demon that had killed her father. "I'M NOT!!" Ardua had been weakened, and Lynnette knew it--otherwise, she would have been afraid.

Up in the drawbridge, Dubious McGinty looked out at Wong in disbelief. What the hell now?!? A hundred feet below him, Ardua seethed in anger and pain, but she knew her minions were growing stronger and would not fail. One fatal housefire, two fatal muggings, three homicides, four fatal car accidents, and another five fatal political decisions --it really wasn't such a bad week in Washington after all.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pins and Needles

The acupuncturist was glad he had started taking Mondays off and working on Sundays: Sunday was proving to be a boom day. He had three clients already getting energized and a new one on the table for the first time. Like most new patients, Laura Moreno had asked him for pain relief, but all he could do was balance energy and let the body fix itself. Still, he had his doubts. The pain she talked about was not something he had heard of before, and her chi seemed non-existent. He carefully placed the needles on her back, then added the electrical stimulation before giving her the panic button and leaving the room. Laura lay there, spending money she didn't have, trying to fix her body enough to return to the Prince and Prowling sharecropping which was barely keeping her alive.

In the next room, a real Prince and Prowling employee with a premium health insurance plan had already rolled over for part two of his acupuncture session. Former Senator Evermore Breadman had come at the recommendation of his herbalist, Lynnette Wong. His eyes were wide open, staring at the slender needles sticking out of his body. He felt like a damned voodoo doll, but there was no way he was putting his bowels under the knife--never! He glared at his abdomen, willing it to obey his command, and wondered why Lynnette Wong had told him that his Rolex was bad for his energy. Maybe he should give it back to Rumsfeld? Still, he wasn't totally sure it was the same one, and what happened to the engraving? As the Rolex lay on the table with his car keys, an energy channel in Breadman's diaphragm abruptly shifted and he fell asleep.

Across the hallway, the acupuncturist was starting Charles Wu's second session. Wu had never been sick a day in his life, and knew exactly when to use English doctors and when to use Chinese. Wu felt fine, though the acupuncturist had begun suspecting something he had never seen before but only heard about--too much chi. Like dying from drinking too much water, it was theoretically possible to have too much chi, but the acupunturist had never seen it before. Did he dare drain some of it? Surely Wu would notice. Wu did not seem like somebody to be crossed. The acupuncturist placed only a couple of needles in the wrong places, then began the flow of electricity. Wu took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and meditated on his power animal.

The acupuncturist moved to the next room, where Henry Samuelson lay brooding about Charles Wu. After following Wu here the week before, Samuelson had impulsively signed up himself. He sensed that the acupuncture clinic was a front for nefarious Chinese activity, but he wasn't sure what. Samuelson obediently rolled over and let the Chinaman stick needles all over his abdomen, but Samuelson knew it was all mumbo jumbo hypnotic nonsense, and so, without realizing it, he was glaring at the acupuncturist, who therefore kept asking with surprise if the needles were hurting him. Samuelson was massively unbalanced, and it would be weeks before his chi was flowing optimally, but the acupuncturist was doubtful Samuelson would stick with it--he seemed an angry and impatient man.

The acupuncturist took a break, checked his email, and laughed at the photo already being circulated of the polyps removed from President Bush's ass the day before.

Over at the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney was chuckling at the same polyp photo, emailed to him by Scooter Libby. He was working on his personal files, making careful, encrypted notes about everything he had done yesterday while holding Presidential power for two hours. For some reason, there was a quarter-hour gap in his memory. He looked over his notes again, then looked out the window trying to jog his memory. Reggie and Fergie were outside, running through the sprinkler. They stopped and looked up at Cheney. He could not tell if they were frowning or smiling at him--maybe one of both. The Shackled were not pleased with his Presidential performance, and were set to linger long into the night, talking to the White House ghosts about it. Cheney turned to shuffle through his notes one more time, pricking himself on a weakly placed staple. A few drops of blood oozed out on his secret legacy.

Over in Southwest, Marcos Vasquez was thinking about checking in on Golden Fawn. He still hadn't asked her to explain, because there was no point in doing it until he was ready to admit to her that he was terrified of something in the water. A couple of floors away, Golden Fawn was carefully sewing beads onto a belt--something she hadn't done since she was a child. She could already feel Ardua's partial recovery from their last two battles--it was going to be a long, long war. Maybe she couldn't do it alone? She pricked her finger, but it didn't bleed. Tomorrow, the balcony drilling would resume around the corner, as the "renovation" continued in Southwest Plaza, with every balcony getting demolished and rebuilt. Tomorrow, Golden Fawn would have to take her radiated, emaciated shell of a body somewhere else to rest. Tomorrow, Golden Fawn would not be there when the pneumatic drilling that could have and should have been enjoined by the court caused her neighbor with the at-risk pregnancy to suffer a miscarriage one month into her two-month bedrest order.

A mile away, Ardua watched and waited for her strength to return. Still, her minions were carrying on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Smoke on the Water

Golden Fawn stepped slowly into the canoe. She was still a little dizzy from the radiation treatment, but she needed to work on Ardua some more. Her friend did all the paddling as they circled Roosevelt Island to find a secluded cove. Her friend dropped Golden Fawn off "to meditate", said she would be back in a couple of hours, then cluelessly paddled off to look for waterfowl further upriver. Golden Fawn stepped around the milk crate, soggy tarp, torn t-shirt, and plastic bottles--the least of her concerns. She wedged herself uncomfortably into the brush, nothing visible to passers-by now except her hands reaching out to build the fire. When the smoke was strong, she began saying the prayers passed down to her from her grandmother.

Deep in the Potomac, Ardua recoiled in pain. She screamed for her minions to attack Golden Fawn, but they were all afraid of her. The starlings and catbirds took flight, the ducks paddled away, the river rats fled to the far side of the island, and the beaver held his breath and swam for the Tidal Basin. Ardua tried to reach up out of the water but could not do it.

Less than a mile away, Perry Winkle was kayaking downriver when he felt a sudden wave nearly capsize his boat. He looked around, but there was nobody near him. He shrugged and resumed paddling. He had been out here all day, asking every boater he passed whether they knew anybody named "Dubious McGinty" who lived on the river. Suddenly a cantaloupe rind dropped into the water on the other side of the bridge. He moved closer, looked up, and saw a man peeping out from the watchman's quarters of the drawbridge. "Dubious McGinty?" Dubious did not respond. "I'm from The Washington Post. Do you live here?" Dubious looked away, suddenly feeling what was happening to Ardua. He ran inside to get his binoculars. "Dubious!"

Back on the island, Golden Fawn was hot and exhausted. She lay down and fell asleep. She dreamed she was holding a fish in her hands, walking around in a house, frantically asking everyone she passed where the fish tank was because she could not let this fish get away. The fish was slippery, and she was exhausted trying to hold onto it, but she was terrified of what would happen if it escaped. She finally found the fish tank and put the fish in it, but the fish pulled her into the tank, and she couldn't breathe. She tried to breathe the water, thinking maybe she had become a fish, but she could only gasp fruitlessly.

A Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead. The co-pilot contacted the patrol boat to let them know that smoke was spotted coming from the island. Marcos Vasquez turned the boat around and headed back towards Roosevelt.

"Mr. McGinty?" Winkle was still trying to talk to Dubious, but Dubious was on the other side of the bridge scanning the river for signs of that witchy woman. He saw the smoke, stuffed the binoculars into his pants pocket, then ran back to see if the kayak was still there. "Mr. McGinty!" Dubious unfurled his nylon rescue ladder and began climbing down towards the kayak. "Umm, I'm not sure that's a good idea." When Dubious got to the bottom of the ladder, he dropped the final 20 feet into the water, splashing in a few feet away from the kayak. "Dubious?!" Dubious surfaced, then clambered up on top of the kayak. "Are you Dubious McGinty?"

"Well, of course I am, fool! You been callin' my name for 10 minutes! Hurry up now, we need to get to Roosevelt." Winkle didn't know what to do, and tried to point out that the kayak only had one seat. "I'm fine on top--just get moving! We need to find her and help her!" Winkle's eyes lit up, and he started paddling. Maybe this would be a better story than he thought!

Up above, the Shackled were gathering, amazed at what was unfolding beneath them. They had never seen that kind of power against Ardua! A raven landed near Golden Fawn and started croaking loudly to try to wake her up, but she was still asleep when Winkle's kayak approached from the north and Vasquez's patrol boat approached from the south. They couldn't see her in the brush--only the fire. The raven landed on the ground, next to her head, and croaked again, but she still slept. Dubious slipped into the water and swam to shore, then the sound of the raven brought him to her. He picked her up out of the brush and carried her to the sand. "Leave her alone!" screamed Vasquez, as Winkle stared in amazement from his kayak. Vasquez dove out of the patrol boat, swam to shore, and was about to scream again at the man when he realized it was Dubious. Dubious gently laid her down on the sand and backed away. "What happened to her?" asked Vasquez, checking her pulse.

"She's started a war with Ardua, that's what happened to her," Dubious said gravely. Vaquez only paused a moment, then signalled his partner to toss him the medical kit. Winkle finally crawled out of his beached kayak and threw sand on the fire, prompting Dubious to cuss him out.

Deep in the Potomac, Ardua started licking her wounds. Up in the sky, the Shackled divided up to patrol the city and see how the city's ghosts would respond.

Over at the Watergate, Condoleezza Rice was sitting in her red leather recliner, sipping a rice milk, beet juice, cardammon, flaxseed, olive oil smoothie. A few red drops lingered at the side of her lips as she placed the empty glass on the woolen coaster atop her teakwood end table. She suddenly could not remember what she had been thinking about for the past twenty minutes. She looked down with surprise at the cat curled up on her legs. "Pippin!" She stroked the cat and tried to remember what she had been thinking about....Oh, yes....the plan. But she could not remember the really, really good idea she was sure she had come up with a few minutes ago. She looked out at the Potomac. I'm sure it will come back to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thumbs Down

The editor of The Washington Post was giving the thumbs-down to Dubious McGinty's letter about Scooter Libby's get-out-of-jail card, but he could not bring himself to trash it. "Get me the 'Metro' editor," he called out to his assistant.

A few miles to the west, Laura Moreno settled into bed for the night, curled into the fetal position, and grasped an icepack between her two hands. The throbbing in her right thumb slowly subsided, her tendons shrank bank, and her muscles stopped yelling in pain. She needed to quit her job at Prince and Prowling--which had sucked away a tenth of her life, a tenth of her brain, a tenth of her fingers, a tenth of her soul. She was decimated. She looked at her thumb, which she now knew from the doctor would never shrink back down because the bone had enlarged itself in a misguided attempt to make up for cartilege destruction. She was deformed and crippled from clicking a mouse thousands of times a day. Laura had not gotten the government job she interviewed for in June, and her hands hurt too much to do any more government applications. Meanwhile Chloe Cleavage had just gotten a permanent position at Prince and Prowling because former Senator Evermore Breadman liked the way she always brought him back Starbucks coffee from each of her five daily breaks from the office--or liked the view when she bent over and placed the coffee on his desk. Chloe Cleavage--who had never worked as hard as Laura a day in her life--had only been at Prince and Prowling a few months, but would now have paid holidays, vacation time, disability insurance, and full health coverage (although the only intervention she really wanted was breast enlargement). Laura had been a temporary attorney at Prince and Prowling long enough to render legal assistance in two dozen lawsuits, four state actions, and three federal actions, but her name was still unlisted in the telephone directory, she still paid all her own medical bills, and if she didn't keep her productivity up she would lose her job to an electronically tethered attorney standing by in India. Laura could not remember the last time her life made sense.

Back at The Washington Post, Perry Winkle was trying to understand his new assignment--finding the writer of a rejected letter-to-the-editor. "The return address just says 'Potomac River'?" The "Metro" editor nodded. "It's a big river," Winkle said. Winkle's editor walked away without responding. Winkle pressed his thumbs into his temple trying to release his tension headache in the manner the "Health" reporter had shown him. This was not why he came to this town.

Over at the Vice President's residence, Dick Cheney was asleep in the fetal position, his right thumb lodged firmly in his mouth. Lynn Cheney anonymously logged into Laura Bush's chatroom about the importance of raising boys right and typed in a question about men under stress who revert to thumb-sucking after falling asleep. She exhaled slowly, hoping somebody would give her a helpful answer. If Congress actually cut off funding for his office, it would just cement his legend and legacy--that's what she had told him, but he didn't buy it. An anonymous answer popped up on the screen: "put chili pepper on the thumb". Only somebody from Texas would suggest that....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

This is America!

Charles Wu was sitting against a tree in Meridian Park, reading confessions from the Central Intelligence Agency. He had been a double agent for a long time, and very little of this was news to him--too old, too geographically passe, too useless. He yawned and looked up at the crowd already gathering for a distant view of the national fireworks which would commemorate the still young and fragile democracy. After a few minutes, he settled his view on a woman in a tight jean skirt and yellow tank top. His view was quickly obscured by a young girl approaching his shade tree. She set up two folding chairs next to him as an old woman with a walker followed slowly behind. They both sat down, exchanged a few words in Spanish, sipped water, then sat in silence. A raven alit on a tree branch above them and gave Wu a menacing look and shriek. Charles turned to look back at the woman in yellow, but she was already lost in the crowd. Angela de la Paz and her grandmother looked up at the raven, but it was quiet now; they sat in silence, both thinking about abuela's escape from El Salvador's war to the U.S.A. years before Angela was even born.

Several miles south, Golden Fawn was on her Southwest Plaza balcony, cleaning up the pigeon crap before her guests arrived to watch the national fireworks with her. It was the first 4th of July she had not spent at home with her grandmother. She sat down to rest, thankful her friends had told her they would bring everything. She started thinking about her neighbor Marcos Vasquez and the lie she had told him about why she was praying and burning sage at the side of the Potomac River. She could tell that he knew she was lying, and she could tell that he knew that she knew that he knew. Why not tell him the truth about Ardua? If he was going to be out on the Potomac, she should tell him. She resolved to call him up, but fell asleep to the soft cooing of the pigeon doves that lived there.

A couple miles to the west, Marcos Vasquez was already on Coast Guard duty for the 4th of July. Another helicopter was making a river sweep above his boat, but Vasquez and his partner did not even bother looking up. His partner was scanning the east shore, and Vasquez was supposed to be scanning the west, but he was mostly looking down into the water. He had a feeling that Golden Fawn had been doing some mojo that day, and he had a feeling it was about this monster in the water that he had never spoken a word about to anyone. Vasquez kept wondering if she would return to finish what the Coast Guard had interrupted.

Up in the abandoned watchman's quarters of the drawbridge, Dubious McGinty was looking down at Ardua and wondering the same thing. That girl had mojo! He knew it! Ardua was wounded for sure. Dubious had lit a dozen different substances on fire in the past three days trying to get the same effect, but nothing was working. They had to kill Ardua before she got her strength back! He reloaded his bb gun to try to pick off a few more infected ducks, then saw the Coast Guard boat approaching and lowered the gun. Damned 4th of July fuzz! It was always something around here. He went back inside to work on his letter to the editor of The Washington Post about Scooter Libby's get-out-of-jail-free card. He sat down in front of the Corona Selectric he had garbage-picked in Foggy Bottom years before, not that he remembered how it had gotten here--he didn't remember how most of his belongings had gotten here. Fortunately, he didn't use it much, or he would have run out of ink a long time ago. The paper was newer, freshly garbage-picked when the college kids were finishing the spring term at Georgetown University. He couldn't remember the last time he had written a letter to the editor, which was actually during the Reagan administration. It had been a long, long time since he had the mental clarity to write in The Man's language, as he knew he had to do. He reread what he had already typed this morning: "Dear Sirs, As a Vietnam Veteran who watched Scooter Libby's cousin die in battle at 1971, I must protest." That was as far as he had gotten. He added, "This is America!", then stopped to think some more.

A few miles to the east, former Senator Evermore Breadman was sitting under a shade umbrella on the roof of the Prince and Prowling building, a nervously smiling Scooter Libby sitting beside him drinking a cold beer. Breadman was only pretending to drink his own beer, his colon screaming in agony because he had not had time to get back to Lynette Wong's herb store in weeks. "It doesn't matter if you get disbarred," Breadman was telling the pale Libby. "You don't really want to practice law anyway! Let me tell you about some of the people you'll be meeting later today when we watch the fireworks." Libby took another swallow of beer. He was still having nightmares about going to prison--that's what he really wanted to talk about.

Back at Meridian Park, Charles Wu was getting hot and uncomfortable, and the CIA confessions were not revelatory enough to him to pass the time until the fireworks. He resolved to swim away the afternoon and then go drinking. He left the CIA history on the grass under the tree, stood up, and headed for home. Fifty feet away, a retired CIA agent quickly swooped in to pick up the document, looked at it, and nodded grimly. He shoved it into his LL Bean tote bag, put on his sunglasses, scowled at the quizzical Angela de la Paz (damned illegal alien!), then began following Wu home. Henry Samuelson knew that guy was up to something, but he couldn't quite figure out what. But he would. "Damned foreigners!" he muttered to himself. This is America! Damned if he was going to let them infiltrate on his watch.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

By the Horns

Leo Schwartz held the car door open for Theresa, made sure she was all the way in, then shut it tightly. He walked around to the driver's side and called out one more "thank-you!" before getting in to drive Theresa back home to the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged. He had insisted on picking her up and delivering her in his own car, by himself. He wasn't angry about her "escape" during last week's group outing to the National Zoo--he just wanted to talk to her, and he found it was often easier to get patients to talk while they were riding in a car, looking out a window. He had always doubted her diagnosis as well as her prescription, but a psychologist doesn't usually get to overrule a psychiatrist's diagnosis. He was interested in the fact that she had functioned rather independently for almost a week--off her meds, outside the group home. It was not until she had killed the duck at Urine Park that she had been picked up by the authorities. "Let's start with the trip to the zoo. Why did you leave the group?"

Over at Urine Park, Dizzy could still see the bloodstains where she had killed the duck. He knew the duck had it coming to him, but the last time he had tried to tell the cops about the evil ducks, he had ended up at St. Elizabeth's for five weeks. Uh-uh, no sir, he kept his mouth shut. In any case, she didn't belong in Urine Park--not tough enough. He polished his trumpet, all the while still staring at the bloodstains.

"So you left the group because you wanted to pray for the Vice-President?" Theresa nodded yes, which Leo did not see. "Hmm?" He turned his head slightly, then saw from the corner of his eye that she was nodding yes. "Why did you need to be right in front of his residence to pray for him?" Theresa told him that sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns.

A few miles away, Golden Fawn was squatting at the edge of the Potomac River, staring at the fresh bloodstains on a rock. She looked up at the sky to see what birds of prey were around--mostly gulls. Not likely. She didn't know that the gulls had started hunting river rats. She was too tired to purify the site, so she got up and moved further north, then sat down. She lit her sage on fire, closed her eyes, and began to pray about Ardua with the words her grandmother had given her.

"So you thought the Vice-President was possessed by an evil demon?" Theresa nodded yes, which Leo saw because he had already shifted his peripheral vision. "Why did you think that?" Theresa looked at him in amazement, then told him there was obviously no other explanation. Leo opened his mouth to speak, then realized he had no rebuttal for that comment.

Back at the Potomac River, Dubious McGinty was leaning out of the watchman's quarters on the drawbridge, watching Golden Fawn through his binoculars, thinking she looked a lot like those Viet Cong girls. Then he noticed something peculiar: Ardua reared up in rage, then sank lower into the river. "Damn! What's that Viet Cong girl got?"

"OK, so where did you go after you finished praying for the Vice-President?" Theresa told him she rode a bus somewhere and found a park to sleep in. Then she was invited into a tunnel land called Dupont Down Under, but the people were kind of nutty there, and it was a little claustrophobic, and some of the people stole things, so she left. Then she found a library and read some books, then she slept outside the library, then she bought some sunglasses and decided to walk to the White House to pray over there. "Didn't you want to come home?"

Back at the Potomac, Marcos Vasquez and his partner were doing another pre-holiday Coast Guard sweep and had spotted the smoke even before they turned the bend in the river. Vasquez's partner was already preparing to call for back-up when Vasquez grabbed his arm and said, "It's just a woman praying." This comment drove his partner into an even deeper panic, but by now Vasquez could clearly recognize the woman. "It's my neighbor." Still, they would have to put out the fire.

"So you were worried about the President, too?" Theresa nodded yes. She explained what she thought was going to happen in the White House and how she had to fix things before the Vice-President got hold of the nuclear bombs. "And you thought praying the rosary at the White House would fix things?" She explained that she was going to hide the rosary in the ground at the White House so that it would always be there, but then she saw the demon in the park and stopped to kill it.

Leo steered the car out of Washington and onto the drawbridge to Virginia. Theresa looked down at the Coast Guard vessel and the two men in bright white uniforms talking to a woman on the shore. The woman had on a head bandana like Melinda used to wear during chemotherapy. There was something on fire, but then the woman put the fire out. Theresa looked down into the water: the river did not feel as evil as it had felt a week ago when they rode the van into the city to go to the zoo.

Deep in the Potomac River, Ardua was doubled up in pain. She had never felt a prayer like that! She did not realize how many generations of prayer and wisdom had been given to Golden Fawn to fight Ardua. As her strength faded, ducks began slipping out of her grasp and flying away. She called for assistance, and her minions came--except those that had escaped with Theresa's inadvertent help. Where were all her beloved?